Category Archives: 03.2 Shows

How to build an installation

So then. It is decided that I am doing an installation for the show – large scale for me, although perhaps small scale in absolute terms. I must consider there will be a dozen other students showing in the same space!

I have been going back over my research notes looking at the range of things which are possible, trying to see what resonates with the fundamental concepts I have come out with for what the installation is seeking to do. My thought is that I am using the map yarns in a way that each thread unravels a fragment of identity formed or remembered – a story, a choice, a path, a longing. The binding of the threads together perhaps can then offer a glimpse of the fleeing whole sense of self.

There are many artists working with fibre installations, and each offers a different perspective on how their materials can be transformed spatially, texturally and through form. How do I want to create an expression of my different experiences? Do I want to represent the size of impact each place had on forming my identity?

I also need to consider the number of map yarns it will be possible to make in the time we have left, and how many I would go to in an ideal world. There are not an infinite number of places in my life, so which places am I choosing? Those which have made the strongest impact irrelevant of time span?

My plan now is to do some testing which plain paper yarns in a space in the studio – check what a hanging installation could look like, what the lengths of my yarns will look like on the floor and options for building the individual strands into one whole. Oh and continue to make endless amounts of map yarn!

Show: T-8 weeks

So the show prep begins

We had our first return visit to the show space today since our brief glimpse last term. It gave us a chance to have a look around with a more discerning eye. Where are the windows? Where are the fire doors or signs which cannot be blocked and so on. It is not nearly as nice a space as the usual Designer Maker final show space – over in our other building. Yet another annoying consequence of having building works dumped on us without notice (the first being our nice studio getting demolished). Anyway, we must work with what we have, and so that work begins.

There is a lot of co-ordination to be done, but people seemed keen today to get started. We did some measurements of the room for example, and talked about a few things which need to be done. Hopefully the importance of the show will not be lost on anyone and we will have a more successful organisation that the last small pop-up show.

My thoughts are still about hanging from the ceiling, which although not quite as high as I remember it, is still about 4m high – so I can get a good amount over head height if I need to. The challenge might be a hanging system as I don’t think we will be allowed to screw anything directly into the ceiling (why have they kept old wallpapered ceilings in an art college???). I need to look into where I get wires which can be screwed across the wall, and how to go about hanging from one of those.

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An encounter with myself

I have spent much of the last year (since before the Unit 1 assessment) tackling the challenge of how to include my interest in working with text/words into my practice. I realise now that if I am to be realistic, the real core of my “practice” has always been the words – the stuff in my sketchbooks are so often poems or calligraphic drawings, the expressionism. This is after all even what my last few art quilts were about. I have perhaps been trying to overlay some ability to work in 3D or objects, without really comprehending what the foundations of my own work were.

So if we look a the picture the other way around…if the words are the core thing, how then can other material or 3d design help express my concept?

I have been looking at the construction of a place identity, trying to express a sort of visual poem as a manifest object. My plan for the installation is to make it a real, immersive space which overlays a physical form of personal experience combined with a seemingly endless stream of consciousness poetry – offering a manifestation of my personal conception of my sense of self.

The key material for my piece is then really the words themselves – using the materiality of the physical act of handwriting, the work becomes both a visual poem and calligraphic record.  Handwriting is a raw, immediate and visceral expression of your core identity – something which is original and unique to yourself.

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Crit on work-in-progress show

The work in progress show closed yesterday, leaving the next show on the calendar as our graduating summer show…Arg!

We had a couple of opportunities for feedback before taking down our work, firstly from a group crit during the morning, and then from visitors at the show closing party after hours. Slightly mixed feelings about my feedback. I heard at least three sets of visitors comment on my work saying it was “amazing” and “wow! look, they are maps!”, but the response from the tutor was at best tepid.  We had quite a lively discussion in the class when I introduced my pieces, and I was pleased to see the group arguing amongst themselves about the meaning of my work – just the sort of debate you would hope to achieve.

The crux of their question was to the level of my specific personal experience which is on display in the work. Some thought they related better to the work because it was more universally human (mountains, sea etc), while others felt I myself was less present – an outside observer of the places being constructed. Suggestions such as making my own maps, using photographs or recording paths etc to personalise the materials. [Some of which I have already tried, some of which I have mixed feelings about].

My concern, is that Maiko seems to think my experiments have not broken away enough and I got the distinct impression from what she said that she didn’t seem to be keen on me doing more weaving. I’m hoping to clarify this before the end of term as I’m not very clear as to what her expectations are – how can I just drop my plan so close to the end? to do what else instead?

Being positive, I do see a couple of key points in her comments: certainly on the inclusion of personal experience into the work, and perhaps also on the safety/comfort of the technique. My worry is that I don’t have enough skill to go anywhere else with the method, or not enough creative vision to figure out what possibilities I’m missing. With only 15 weeks to go, how much have time do I really have to keep experimenting?

 

Working Process show

Our pop-up work in progress show is now up in Camberwell Space Projects after a week or so of last minute prep. It looks really good, I’ve been quite impressed by the range of stuff on display – particularly since this is the first real show of work by the first years. No photos of the work yet, must get some next week.

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So in the end I put up two pieces, the mountain map and the sea weaving, alongside the two inspiration weaves/words. After testing I decided the pieces looked good on the wall – I think better than showing flat on a plinth or shelf. I got some useful minions to help me out too!

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Using the wall gave me a lot of options to play with angles and the view of both sides:

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Overall thoughts. The small pieces are nice, but I definitely want to do at least one big piece. I may not do three all the same size, but at least one work can be underway while I finalise the next two. Do I want to keep the threads loose at the back? This emphasises the two-sided nature of the map, and the excess of information which is lost in the view at the front (echoing the map versus the map legend). Does this become obvious though or does it just look untidy?

Map weaving III

I am currently feeling oddly optimistic about my final show plan. Perhaps because I have I think at last found a coherent way to bring my ideas into a manifest piece.

My plan is to show three pieces and some accompanying words in some form (book/essay perhaps). At the moment I have the ‘making plans’ for the first two pieces underway. The third piece is still undecided – I have two different ideas which I may need to do some tests on first before picking one. The accompanying book is a whole other ballgame…this is going to need some thought, but is at least a nice way to break up the stress of making so much yarn on my fingers!

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Map weaving tests I

I’ve had two ideas for the final show based on my initial map weaving sample. After talking to Susan, I decided I had just enough time to do a quick test of both ideas before the work-in-progress show in March.

First idea test is now complete, and I showed this at a group crit this morning. With this test, I wanted to pick out one aspect of place identity, and let the form of the weaving be interpretive, based on my response to the place shown on the map, and my feelings of how that place infuses my own identity. This seemed to be completely lost on everyone, and the focus was more on the shape (“is this some sort of sea creature?”) than on anything more conceptual. They didn’t seem to get the idea that the piece was made with all one aspect of the map which I had deconstructed, nor the significance of the data on the label. Disappointing, but I have to remember a) this group is not the audience I am targeting with my work, and b) it was meant as a test and I did ask for the feedback after all.

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This brings me to the question as to whether my second idea may be ‘easier’ for people who aren’t inherently conceptual to engage with. Do I want to broaden the appeal of my work a little and make it more accessible? I don’t want to dumb down, but I don’t want it to be completely uninterpretable either. If only I get anything from it, that slightly defeats the point of the artwork. This beings me back to the low relief sculpture I mentioned in the last post. Removing the challenge of form (I would be weaving on the map grid) would mean I can focus solely on texture and colour….

I’m going to see if I can get a final test of this second idea done before the WIP show…but with only a few days left spare, I’m not sure if that’ll work in time!! Then it will really be time for a final decision and to start making the summer show pieces.

Reflection on the interim show

The biggest piece of learning I will take away, is how you cannot overestimate how much work is involved in setting up a show. We started preparation way too late, but no-one had any idea what was required – and we were all surprised how much we were required actually sort out by ourselves. We got there in the end of course, but there were a few too many things being done (and work being finished!) just hours before the show opened.

I was impressed and surprised by how many people came to the private view, it was actually quite an event! I realise the vast proportion of visitors seemed more interested in drinking the beer than looking at the work, but I suppose that’s part of what a PV is about. There were some genuinely interested visitors as well though. Feedback wise, I had a number of people ask about what the work meant, particularly the Starfield piece, and quite a few people commented on how they liked the map basket. I even had a lovely discussion with Stella Harding (basketmaker), who took a few photos for her Morley students, and great comments from an unidentified member of Camberwell teaching staff – that’s the sort of feedback which motivates you to keep going.

So far, I have had three parents, one husband and a next-door neighbour come to visit me. So great to get so much support. Oh and nearly all of my business cards are gone already!

I have also taken the chance to quiz some of the second years before they disappear into the mist. One of my friends on the MA Book Arts course (with a mesmerising installation in the show), had some of the most poignant wisdom. Like me, she spent her EFT 1 year wandering though a range of very different experiments trying different concepts and different techniques, and ending up confused and overwhelmed with ideas. Her final success she believes, came from entering the second year with a new sense of purpose.

  • You have to OWN IT
  • Come back with FOCUS
  • BELIEVE in your ideas
  • Know what you want to say with your work / what you want your work to say (and the difference between the two)
  • INDEPENDENCE: you need to lead your own project
  • Listen to advice, but only take from it what is relevant to you
  • Ensure the work stays true to yourself

MA Designer Maker Interim show

We are about halfway through the show as I write this, while sat in our gallery space awaiting this morning’s opening time. In the end, there were a few iterations of my display before settling on the final collection of pieces.  At first, Maiko suggested I was in a no-man’s land: not resolved enough pieces for them to stand alone, but not enough exposure of process to show a proper work in progress. I’m not sure I completely agreed with her, but I understood why she wanted to show more of our processes – and to make a clear distinction between our ‘work in progress’ show and the MA final show – all shiny and finished – downstairs.

At first I tried putting all of my recent samples on the table

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Which I decided looked confused and untidy.  After a few goes re-arranging this, we settled on just showing one aspect of my latest experiments and adding another one of my fabric drawings:

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I also dropped a quick hand with some calligraphy for one of my fellow students in need!

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The view from the door…

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Nearly show time

The day for the interim show opening draws nearer, and it’s all a bit manic in the show space as last minute preparations continue. I think I am pretty much done now, having spent most of the last two weeks working on two new experiments for the show. I have decided to go with three pieces.

Starfield
(Calico, found steel wires, wild flowers, graphite)
My rust dyeing and drawing experiment. I think this nicely captures the ideas of microcosm-macrocosm and using local materials with non-local symbolism.

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You Were Here
(Steel cable, out-of-date GB road map)
The first of my basketry experiments, using steel cables to echo the importance of iron to human life, both on a micro-scale (human society itself) and a macro-scale (the core of the earth and the core of the dying stars). I like the way the map is out-of-date – showing you a place which does not physically exist, only now an impression of place shaped by memory and experience. The twining was a lot of fun, but making the map yarn took a lot of time. I have the technique sorted now at least!!

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Show me the way to go home
(Steel cable, out-of-date GB road map index)
A follow-on from the first twined piece, making more of the connection between the steel and the earth’s magnetic field. The form of the basket was inspired by a compass rose, where the human impression of place, signified here through a twined yarn made of place names, is what we overlay onto the physical world in order for us to understand it.

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This is my final text for the show guide:

How do we understand our sense of place in the world beyond the constraints of community and culture?  These works explore different aspects of the interaction of local and non-local, the physical and the meta-physical; I use steel wires as a physical manifestation of a material critical in human, planetary and stellar lifecycles. Upon this core, I am experimenting with different weaving and drawing techniques.

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Private View this Thursday night (16 July) at 6pm, Camberwell College of Arts!!